The Jan. 6 committee has had plenty of decisions to make over the course of its investigation, but among the thornier questions is whether to make criminal referrals to the Justice Department as part of its probe. To that end, a subcommittee of lawyers on the panel specifically studied the issue and settled on a recommendation.
One of those lawyers was House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, a former federal prosecutor, who sat down with NPR’s Steve Inskeep yesterday.
When the host asked about the sort of transgressions that have not yet been prosecuted, the California Democrat avoided specifics but quickly referenced U.S. District Court Judge David Carter, who issued a ruling in a civil case earlier this year, concluding that Donald Trump “likely attempted to obstruct the joint session of Congress” on Jan. 6. The jurist added, “The illegality of the plan was obvious.... Based on the evidence, the Court finds it more likely than not that President Trump corruptly attempted to obstruct the joint session of Congress on January 6, 2021.”
Inskeep went on to ask, “[W]hen you look at the evidence as a former prosecutor, do you believe that Donald Trump committed specific prosecutable crimes on January 6 and beforehand, a criminal conspiracy or something else?” Schiff replied:
“Yes, I do. And, you know, I think that illustration I gave, that example I gave is just one instance, one particular offense that I think the facts support a potential charge against the former president. And, you know, the Justice Department, in my view, needs to hold, you know, everyone equally responsible before the law, and that includes former presidents when they engage in criminality.”
That does not sound like a Jan. 6 committee member who’s on the fence about whether to refer Trump to federal prosecutors.
Indeed, if we’re counting heads on the partisan panel, let’s not forget that Schiff’s not alone in making comments like these. Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, the committee’s Republican co-chair, sat down with CNN’s Jake Tapper in the spring and said largely the same thing.
“It’s absolutely clear that what President Trump was doing — what a number of people around him were doing — that they knew it was unlawful,” Cheney said. “They did it anyway.”
So, what happens now? Rep. Bennie Thompson, the Democratic chairman of the select committee, told reporters this week, “We have made decisions on criminal referrals,” adding that there’s “general agreement” on the panel that referrals will be issued.
“But we’re not there yet,” the Mississippi congressman said. “I wish I could tell you one, two, three, four but that’s all still being discussed.”
Watch this space.